Haitian activist wins Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award, brings celebration to the border

When someone wins the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (a prize that comes with a $ 30,000 check), the ceremony is usually held in the US Senate.

But when Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance, learned that she had won this year’s annual award, she wanted to celebrate in another way. She brought the ceremony to the border and led a group, including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights staff and musician Wyclef Jean, to the Tijuana Immigration Shelter and then to the Otaimesa Detention Center, which houses detainees at the Immigration and Customs Department.

“We wanted to bring this award to people on both sides of the border and let them know that it was for them,” Joseph said. “We hear them. We see them. We keep fighting for them.”

She took advantage of that moment to drive the end of Title 42, a policy that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, allowing border authorities to expel migrants to Mexico or their home countries. Asylum qualifications normally required under US law and international treaties. President Joe Biden campaigned against some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies that resulted in asylum seekers waiting in danger in cities in northern Mexico, but Biden’s team used title 42. Continued to defend.

She also called for the end of the deportation of Haitians and the more general deportation.

“We went to the border because we heard there were Haitians,” she said in a speech outside the detention center, recalling the early days of her organization’s activities in Tijuana. “We went for the Haitians, but we stayed for everyone, and we continue to fight for everyone.”

To celebrate Joseph’s award, Jean played from behind a flatbed truck and set the stage on the street near the detention center. He sang, played the guitar, spoke directly to Biden and asked him to finish Title 42.

“I know Haitians can hear me behind the fence. I know what ICE is listening to,” he sang. “Please be a little considerate of my people behind the fence.”

He said the problem was personal to him. He immigrated from Haiti as a child.

“I’m seeing these people on the other side of the table I’m talking to,” he said of his experience at Tijuana that morning. “It could have been me.”

He was particularly impressed with the conversation with his mother, who said he had crossed seven countries to take his child to the United States after living in Brazil. He asked her how she continued.

“Every time I look in my child’s eyes, I want to die rather than not give her a better life,” he replied. “It really touched my heart.”

Wyclef Jean plays outside the Otaimesa Detention Center during a protest against Title 42, which led to the expulsion of thousands of Haitian migrants.

(Jarod Barriere / San Diego Union Tribune)

Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, has known Joseph for three years since working together to help Haiti and Cameroon immigrants in Tijuana. Said.

“The great thing about Guerline is that she’s tackling a big problem. She works in a crucible of poverty, race and immigrants,” Kennedy said. “All three are very challenging issues in our country and she works where all three meet.”

She also joined Joseph in Del Rio when images of border guard agents on horseback carrying food to their families stir up public protests when thousands of Haitians were detained under a Texas bridge. Spent time.

Kennedy recalled Joseph noticing that a woman in the crowd was holding a baby that wasn’t moving. Joseph approached and asked the woman about her child.

“She was born a few days ago and hasn’t eaten,” Kennedy recalled the woman who replied. Kennedy believes his new mother was shocked.

Joseph asked to hug the baby and then ask the mother to trust her enough to take the baby to the doctor. The child was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Houston.

“She saved the child’s life,” Kennedy said.

Joseph is now the godfather of the baby.

“That’s what her commitment means,” Kennedy said. “It’s about the kids in front of her, the mom in front of her, the dad in front of her.”

Joseph said she plans to use part of the prize money to send her parents on vacation.

The vacation is much late. According to Joseph, her parents gave up a comfortable life in Haiti to move to the United States after the coup. Back in Haiti, they had a big house and her father was the mayor. In the United States, the father became a taxi driver and the mother became a housekeeper. Both worked long hours to take care of their families.

But she said she wouldn’t go on that vacation herself. She will be back to work soon.

Haitian activist wins Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award, brings celebration to the border Source link Haitian activist wins Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award, brings celebration to the border

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